Frequently Asked Questions

ARTi General

General Biochar Information

Biochar is a charcoal-like material made from sustainably produced biomass from agricultural and forestry residues (e.g. corn stalks, hulls, wood chips, etc.). It is produced at high temperatures, ranging from 400°C to 800°C with little to no oxygen. This process is called pyrolysis or carbonization. When biomass undergoes pyrolysis, the carbon is rearranged in a stable form with unique properties and applications, and soil enhancement being one of them. Biochar improves soils health and biology as well as chemical and physical properties also increasing nutrient and water retention when properly used it improves your crop yield.

 

Higher pyrolysis temperatures and other modifications, can produce carbon-based materials that can be used for filtering contaminants in water, air and gasses in household or industrial applications. 

No, biochar is not a fertilizer. Biochar can be used alone or it can be mixed with nutrients (organic sources or chemical fertilizers), microbes, or other additives. Biochar will allow us to use less fertilizer as it will retain some of those nutrients typically lost with fertilizers applications.

Remember the plants don’t “eat” carbon, the soil provides nutrients (Macro and micronutrients) and those are held onto the biochar and soil. And the biochar makes the soil healthier for plants.

Biochar is a mixture of Organics (e.g. carbon) and inorganic (mineral ash) elements. The composition of biochar varies widely with the feedstock and operating conditions. Typically biochar contains 60-90% organic carbon, and small amounts of oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, sulfur, and inorganic minerals among others.

ARTi uses sustainable biomass (many considered wastes) as raw material to produce biochar. We have processed wood chips, sawdust, pellets, rice and oat hulls, coconut shells and husk, wheat straw, corn discarded kernel, cobs and stover, among many others. The most commonly used biomasses are oat hulls and wood chips.

Biochar properties vary with the biomass used and how it has been processed. Therefore, the benefits depend on what kind of biochar is used and in what circumstance. If you choose the right biochar, for your specific situation, you should always see improvements in the soil quality, in the plant health and in the environment. We need to understand your needs to match with the biochar properties to get the right results.

  • Biological changes:
    • Promotes the growth of many different types of microbes.
    • Creates pores for the housing and protection of microorganisms
    • Promote the development of endo and ecto microryza 
  • Chemical changes:
    • Increases the amount of organic matter in soil. Biochar is “pyrogenic organic matter/carbon”
    • Increases the cation exchange capacity.
    • It can increase the anion exchange.
    • Nutrient holding capacity and releases slowly to plants.
    • Buffer the pH in soil:. 
      • Basic materials and reduce soil acidity by acting like a liming agent.
      • Acidic biochar can reduce the alkalinity of soils.
    • It can modify the electric conductivity in both ways.
  • Physical changes:
    • Hold water longer than soil because it acts like a sponge.
    • Decrease compaction
    • Promote the formation of aggregates breaking and clustering compacted clay layers.
    • Increase the water infiltration.
    • Increase the aeration.
    • Increase oxygen levels

The plant growth depends on the soil quality, nutrient content, soil texture and structure, etc. Generally biochar helps to:

  • Improve root structure and growth.
  • Increase plant nutrient uptake.
  • Increases yield and resiliency to weather.
  • Increases available water by augmenting the range between wilting point and soil saturation levels.
  • Creates healthier plants for fighting pests and diseases.

  • Sequestrate Carbon Dioxide within the biochar itself (most of the biochar is carbon) and indirectly it can enhance other sources of organic carbon annual generation in the soil by increasing the plants residues and microbial growth and cycling.  
  • Hold nutrients from leaching down the soil and volatilization to the air.
  • Creates a better environment for the microbes and the plants to grow, having many other benefits to the soil and the ecosystem as a whole.

ARTi Biochar is charcoal-like material for soil quality enhancement. Biochar is one of our best tools in the fight against climate change as it sequesters 2 times its own weight in carbon dioxide. e.g. 1 lb of Biochar sequesters up to 2 lbs of CO2. The large amount of carbon in it helps improve your soil physically, biologically and chemically (by mixing it with compost, you will add nutrients and microbes to the soil). It is characterized by being a highly stable soil amendment product that does not break down and hold nutrients from the soil. ARTi Biochar is produced from sustainable biomass that can either be used purely or in blends with other soil products.

The application rate will be determined by the type of biochar, environment, soil, the plant you are using, what you want to improve in your soil and how fast you want to change it. Based on this information we offer further technical assistance for clients to direct them in their use. Contact us for a soil analysis, provide us some pictures and background information, and we can give you our suggestions for optimal use of the biochar. Contact our ARTi agronomists who can help you. 

 

For general applications, we recommend using 50% granular biochar with 50% of good compost with a bit of water, to keep it moist but not wet. The compost will provide nutrients and microbes that will inoculate with nutrients the biochar surface and will colonize pores with microbes and soak water in its sponge structure. 

 

Although you can apply immediately, we recommend the addition of compost and allowing it to mature for 2 weeks prior use. 

 

Excellent soils around the world have a high amount of carbon typically around ~5%. If you were to use that as a recommendation, you can add enough biochar to reach 5% of organic carbon in the soil (measured by weight). Contact us if you want us to review your math!

Much depends on your soil and environmental conditions. As well as your specific crop or plants’ requirements. If you would like to improve your soil’s general properties, increase your organic matter and water retention and you will see significant gains. But you will typically use a significant amount. If you wish to supply additional nutrients to the biochar then you don’t need that much as the biochar is used as a carrier to hold the nutrients. If you are trying to improve the cation exchange capacity somewhat larger amounts are typically used. Contact us to help you and suggest how we would do it.  How to use ARTi Biochar?  Keep in mind ARTi Biochar is the sponge that holds water and nutrients while the compost provides nutrients. Want to get the best results with our product? Find the answers of how to best apply ARTi’s Biochar, suited to your specific requirements. More details about biochar may be found at ARTi.com For potted plants?

  1. Mix up to 50% ARTi Biochar with compost.  
  2. If possible, compost the mixture for 2 weeks and keep it moist, but not wet. 
  3. Add 20% of the mixture under the plant.
  4. Sow your plants and water as usual.
  5. Make a healthier soil, retain more nutrients and water. See the benefits of growing with ARTi Biochar! 
For seeds?
  1. Mix up to 20% ARTi Biochar with compost. 
  2. Compost the mixture for 2 weeks and keep it moist, but not wet. 
  3. Till your soil and add the mixture of compost and biochar.
  4. Add your seeds and water as usual.
  5. Make a healthier soil, retain more nutrients and water. See the benefits of growing with ARTi Biochar!  
For lawns?
  1. Mix up to 50% ARTi Biochar with compost (add a bucket per sq yard).
  2. Spread over the lawn and then water it.
  3. Make a healthier soil, retain more nutrients and water. See the benefits of growing with ARTi Biochar!   
For potted trees?
  1. Mix up to 50% ARTi Biochar with compost.
  2. Dig the hole and add 20% of the mixture in the hole at the tree.
  3. Plant your plants and water as usual.
  4. Make a healthier soil, retain more nutrients and water. See the benefits of growing with ARTi Biochar!  

ARTi does not add any chemicals or additives to the granular biochar such as fertilizer, manure, microbials or anything else unless the client requests it. Meaning that the only ingredient in the granular biochar is the biomass feedstock with no additives.

Biochar’s pores  the nutrient holding-capacity by as much as 20 times that of unhealthy soil. ARTi’s honeycomb structure provides the perfect housing for beneficial microbes which improves root health and fights off pests.

Yes, biochar will increase water retention in the soil through its microstructure and soil aggregate formation. All nutrients present in the water solution are held as well, so they will be available for plant roots for a longer time, reducing the amount of fertilizers required. Biochar doubles water retention as it absorbs moisture and releases it back into the soil when water availability is scarce.

Yes, ARTi biochar increases crop yields if applied properly. As you get higher water + nutrient mixture retention after the soil and biochar has been incorporated in the soil, there will be higher microbial activity, and therefore more food will be available for your crops. So, with biochar there are more nutrients because of the holding capacity and more microbial activity with higher nutrient cycling, but also nutrients are more available because pH is adjusted to optimal range for plants. . Conclusion, increasing soil quality and health increases the plant development and yield. These results are more significant and more prominent in sandy soil, compacted soils, deteriorated or degraded soils, soils with low cation exchange capacity, and acidic soils.

ARTi’s efficient, cutting-edge pyrolysis process technology is able to lock the carbon that the plants sequestered through photosynthesis. Through the pyrolysis process, the carbon is rearranged in a highly stable form that does not break down and lasts for hundreds of years or longer. Biochar is able to safely store carbon in the ground and thereby remove it from the atmosphere for hundreds of years. This creates a carbon sink as more carbon is absorbed every year by the plants and is not released when we pyrolyze. Effectively reducing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. 

We recommend two weeks. You can still apply directly after mixing but 2 weeks is recommended for optimal nutrient retention and microbial development.

No, the granular biochar is natural or non “activated” . ARTi refers to activation to the industrial process of using high temperature gases or chemicals to modify the carbon properties. In the industry it is also referred to as “activation”, the addition of nutrients and microbes to age the biochar. This process we refer to inoculation with nutrients and microbes. If you are looking for an industrial process of activation please contact us through email (ARTi@ARTi.com) or phone by (515) 495-5027 in order to help you with this requirement.

It depends on the biochar type you use. At ARTi we grow plants in 100% biochar, with no soil. Those are specific types of biochar specially made for soilless media. An important consideration is the correct inoculation of nutrients and microbes and age or mature the mix correctly. Biochar is majorly carbon, and when first used in the soil it typically absorbs nutrients and water removing those from the soil for a short period of time. Plants and microbes could be impacted by this effect. Nutrient balancing is an important aspect when applying biochar. The easiest approach we recommend is to use good compost to easily balance nutrients that the plant and microbes will need. The use of chemical fertilizers is more complex as correctly balancing cations, anions and other chemical properties in soil is more tricky.